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Words, Concepts and Mental Slavery

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Jargon Posted: Thu, Mar 22 2012 1:24 AM

 

I've been thinking about 1984 a lot and had this kicking around in my head so this is probably the best place to put it. The ideas may be running into each other, but if I hash it out and get crits I can improve it. I also just typed about 2000 words only to hit backspace and lose it all, so forgive me if I'm incoherent with frustration:


 

Words are imperfect. Words are devices used to convey abstract concepts and desires from one human to another. In order to be useful, words must have definitions specific enough that they exclude other definitions. This exclusion must be powerful enough to preclude even synonyms. For if two words are perfectly synonymous, then one or both of them is useless. Words are often not useful. For one, they rely on other words to define them, so if there is a problem with words themselves the effect is compounded circularly. Secondly, abstractions may come in different forms to different people, in shapes, colors, sounds, or undefineable mental phenomena. Thirdly and most significantly, many of the most important words used in the most important discourse are not defined to the exclusion of other definitions.

Take “Capitalism” for example. Depending on who you ask it means “our current system of production and exchange, the private ownership of production, free-market production and exchange, corporatist production and exchange, inherently oppressive system of organization, or 'dunno'. It is no longer a useful word to use. To effectively use the word 'Capitalism' one must then define the word in the more precise definition to exclude the other definitions, when one may have saved time and simply uttered the 'excluder' phrase and foregone the inconvenience of uttering Capitalism. A n irreversible consequence of saying Capitalism is to summon to the mind of the listener, the abstraction in which that person understands Capitalism. Even explaining what you mean and thus ruling out the abstraction conjured in the listener's mind will not erase its imprint from the listener, no matter how disciplined a debater he may be.

Multiple definitions are bestowed on words from the experiences which people associate with them. For example: A master whips his slave, repeatedly shouting “This is redemption!” Would you expect the slave to have an opinion of the word 'redemption' wherein he associates it with God and Heaven? I would not. I would expect him to associate it with the master and the whip. Take the Marxian definition of Capitalism. Laborers working in poor conditions thought “Hmph! So this is Capitalism...” Thus it came to be that Capitalism would mean poor working conditions and employer oppression. In this sense a human be trained like Pavlov's dog or Alex the Droog. Show him images of hard-labor, while playing bombastic classical music, inspiring speeches, and beautiful women and he will associate hard-labor with glory.


 

<<< A digression: An introvert voices his thoughts as words less than the extrovert. From this, he benefits. The extrovert converts abstractions he holds in his mind and converts them into words. Words are often defined more by connotations and impressions than by their precise meanings. Thus the extrovert will gradually lose the capability of thinking precisely. Always saying what he thinks, he will think in words and become unable to conjure pure abstractions without simultaneously conjuring the connotations and impressions associated with the word best fit for that abstraction. His mind becomes closed to the limit of his feelings. Mental doors are closed. His capacity to think precisely is impaired.

The introvert suffers this detriment less. He converts the precision of his abstractions into the imprecision of words less often. He is able to think more in abstractions and less in words. He is not chained to the mental shortcuts of connotation. He is able to walk along thin line without being pulled to the side by heavy magnetism of emotionalism and mental programming.>>>


 

In order for communication to be useful, words must be chosen very carefully. To choose words recklessly is to abandon the hope of communication. Here is a list of words/phrases I despise. They conceal more than they reveal, or are immediately sucked to a wall of false meaning once uttered, or a combination of both.


 

Free Speech – When one cries “Free Speech” what he means is “I demand that my master permit me to speak freely!” To say this is to acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of a master. The free man does not cry “free speech”, he speaks freely and then, once the state's henchmen come to arrest him, he properly indicts them as kidnappers. “Free Speech” - It is the slave saying “Master! Of all things that you may take from me, do not take my right to speak freely”. To cry “Free Speech” is to knowingly confirm and approve of one's slavery. This goes to Freedom of Press/Religion/Whatever as well. It is pleading.


 

Libertarianism – This is translated as “the political position that liberty should be advanced above all else”. It rests on a basic fallacy. Liberty is not advanced or regressed. It exists or does not. What many people mistake as freedoms or liberties are merely the permitted activities of a gracious master.


 

Freedom – To the leftist, freedom means “ rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, chaos, unfairness, racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism etc.” Upon uttering this word, the listener's mind is positioned as such: freedom is sucked onto the magnetized wall which is constituted of the above characteristics. In arguing with this person, you are trying to pull a heavily magnetized object off of a wall from outside of their head. It will be difficult.


 

Anarchism – To the common man, Anarchism means “chaos, destruction, death, black, bomb, rape, evil” The same effect described above in the 'freedom' paragraph is also in effect upon the utterance of this word. The time it takes to describe Anarchism as “an absence of institutionalized violence” will be to no avail. The word has been said, the image is conjured. It would have been better to say “an absence of institutionalized violence” in the first place.


 

People do not think that way. They don't think things like ““It would have been better to say “an absence of institutionalized violence” in the first place.” They just accept words as whatever they are.


 

In order to communicate effectively, one must avoid words like these. Ayn Rand would aptly have called them Anti-concepts. It is better to take the time to use words of irreducible meaning like “aggression”, even if your opponent will not return the courtesy.


 

Additionally, I've discovered a word I'm very fond of. Anarch. Not Anarchist, but Anarch. Anarchist is one who jockeys to push a new social system, an advocate. He is a being of politics. The Anarchist is one who pushes for a day when he can be free. The Anarch is he who recognizes no legitimacy in any aggression upon him. He takes the integrity of his person as a given, a pre-requisite of existence. He is completely free, although repeatedly trampled.

Thoughts?

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Interesting analysis. I'm not entirely with you on the introvert/ extrovert distinction but I can see how the incentives can play out.

You are spot on though with the use of words. The problem is a lot of people use words solely to manipulate rather than to use for meaningful discussion, particularly politically. Racism, sexism, homophobia come to mind.

Preferably in all discussions and debates I'd like to be able to explain my position clearly however it can take some time and you need to use the time effeciently. Aggression though could be a useful and understood word however you could get the Marxists arguing that property is aggression. That said its got legs.

Also you may find this essay by Orwell - Politics and the English Language most interesting

The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.

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Autolykos replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 10:34 AM

Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Jargon. smiley

Jargon:
Words are imperfect. Words are devices used to convey abstract concepts and desires from one human to another. In order to be useful, words must have definitions specific enough that they exclude other definitions.

Words can also convey concrete objects, actions, events, etc. While it's certainly useful for words to have definitions that are specific enough to exclude other definitions, all definitions are inherently arbitrary.

Jargon:
To effectively use the word 'Capitalism' one must then define the word in the more precise definition to exclude the other definitions, when one may have saved time and simply uttered the 'excluder' phrase and foregone the inconvenience of uttering Capitalism. A n irreversible consequence of saying Capitalism is to summon to the mind of the listener, the abstraction in which that person understands Capitalism. Even explaining what you mean and thus ruling out the abstraction conjured in the listener's mind will not erase its imprint from the listener, no matter how disciplined a debater he may be.

The "excluder" phrase may be a lot longer than the single word that stands in for it, which is what makes the stand-in word useful (if there's common agreement about what it stands in for). What you refer to here is what user AJ has called "word-thought overwrite". However, I don't think it's guaranteed that explaining what you mean will not erase the imprint of the abstraction "automatically" conjured in the listener's mind. I don't think it's rocket surgery for a person to adopt another person's terminology in evaluating that other person's arguments. Most people don't do it because they haven't been taught about (and probably don't understand) the inherent arbitrariness of definitions. In fact, most people seem to have been taught the opposite, which is why so many people end up just talking past each other.

Jargon:
Multiple definitions are bestowed on words from the experiences which people associate with them. For example: A master whips his slave, repeatedly shouting "This is redemption!" Would you expect the slave to have an opinion of the word 'redemption' wherein he associates it with God and Heaven? I would not. I would expect him to associate it with the master and the whip. Take the Marxian definition of Capitalism. Laborers working in poor conditions thought "Hmph! So this is Capitalism..." Thus it came to be that Capitalism would mean poor working conditions and employer oppression. In this sense a human be trained like Pavlov's dog or Alex the Droog. Show him images of hard-labor, while playing bombastic classical music, inspiring speeches, and beautiful women and he will associate hard-labor with glory.

I don't think it's nearly that simple with human beings. Alex the Droog broke out of his conditioning, remember? If the slave was raised from an early age to believe that redemption involves whipping, then I think there's a good chance he'll believe it. But even as a slave, he's still a thinking, reasoning human being, so there's some chance that he'll reason his way out of such a belief.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 10:47 AM

Great post. Just to throw some more fuel on the fire, I think there is a very real "language imperialism" at work. This imperialism is not solely a function of the media and entertainment but of the whole Establishment status quo. I also believe that there is a language rivalry at work - the Anglo-Establishment wants English to be the global language, the Sino-Establishment wants Chinese to be the global language, and so on. Like political systems, languages are being aggregated into a monolith and languages spoken only by small communities are being wiped out completely. Just another example of the destructive effects of the political process.

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Jargon replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 1:22 PM

Autolykos:

Words can also convey concrete objects, actions, events, etc. While it's certainly useful for words to have definitions that are specific enough to exclude other definitions, all definitions are inherently arbitrary.

I agree with this. Perhaps I need to rephrase. People probably do not dispute between definitions for the word pencil. It's meaning is non-controversial and likely disassociated with any traumatic experience. So some words may definitely be used without inconvenience; it is not sloppiness to use the word pencil to describe a writing instrument made up of a brittle marking substance.

The "excluder" phrase may be a lot longer than the single word that stands in for it, which is what makes the stand-in word useful (if there's common agreement about what it stands in for). What you refer to here is what user AJ has called "word-thought overwrite". However, I don't think it's guaranteed that explaining what you mean will not erase the imprint of the abstraction "automatically" conjured in the listener's mind. I don't think it's rocket surgery for a person to adopt another person's terminology in evaluating that other person's arguments. Most people don't do it because they haven't been taught about (and probably don't understand) the inherent arbitrariness of definitions. In fact, most people seem to have been taught the opposite, which is why so many people end up just talking past each other.

It's not enough to adopt someone's terminology. Even in doing so, you are still fighting a battle wherein you are trying disassociate the person's experiences from their understanding of the word. Trying to pull a magnet off of a wall. Yeah, it would probably help if people were taught about words more and understood grammar and logic better, but they don't.

I don't think it's nearly that simple with human beings. Alex the Droog broke out of his conditioning, remember? If the slave was raised from an early age to believe that redemption involves whipping, then I think there's a good chance he'll believe it. But even as a slave, he's still a thinking, reasoning human being, so there's some chance that he'll reason his way out of such a belief.

Sadly I must disagree with you. I can best substantiate this disagreement with the large popular support which Totalitarian regimes received. Notice, no assassination attempts were ever made on Josif Stalin. Why was this? The people loved him. They thought of him as a father figure and a strong man. Their concepts were muddled.

Also, when does Alex break free? I remember him fantasizing about rape at the very end but he's still not able to commit action. That probably wasn't a great analogy either.

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Autolykos replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 1:49 PM

Jargon:
I agree with this. Perhaps I need to rephrase. People probably do not dispute between definitions for the word pencil. It's meaning is non-controversial and likely disassociated with any traumatic experience. So some words may definitely be used without inconvenience; it is not sloppiness to use the word pencil to describe a writing instrument made up of a brittle marking substance.

Right. Another way of putting this is that some definitions are more commonly agreed upon than others.

Jargon:
It's not enough to adopt someone's terminology. Even in doing so, you are still fighting a battle wherein you are trying disassociate the person's experiences from their understanding of the word. Trying to pull a magnet off of a wall. Yeah, it would probably help if people were taught about words more and understood grammar and logic better, but they don't.

Magnets can quite often be pulled off of walls. :)

Just because someone does not currently understand words, grammar, and logic better doesn't mean he'll never understand them better. I think it's a disservice to people to treat them like completely static beings. To me, that's the hallmark of elitism, and I personally try to avoid it. (Hopefully I'm successful at least most of the time.)

I'm not always good at this, but since I tend to be less emotionally attached to words than others who I'm debating, I will try to adopt their terminology. On other forums, I was accused of trying to win debates by pointing out differences in definitions. However, my point with that was never to win - it was simply to point out the differences in the definitions. While I still think that's definitely useful, what's even more useful is to show how one's opponent's argument is logically inconsistent regardless of the terminology used. Even then, however, I'm not trying to win the debate - in the sense of feeling "superior" or otherwise good/better about myself because I "showed him who's boss" etc. The point to me is further understanding of things. Unfortunately, most people who debate on the internet (if not also offline) care much more about winning.

Jargon:
Sadly I must disagree with you. I can best substantiate this disagreement with the large popular support which Totalitarian regimes received. Notice, no assassination attempts were ever made on Josif Stalin. Why was this? The people loved him. They thought of him as a father figure and a strong man. Their concepts were muddled.

That's just the thing. Not everyone loved Stalin when he was in power. A lot of people didn't. But those who didn't love him were afraid of the consequences of expressing lack of support, for that could get them sent to the GULAG. On the other hand, a lot of Russians alive at the time were brought up under the Tsars, so they were used to an apparently strong leader ruling over everyone. There's more to it, and I could get into it more if you want (having read a lot of Soviet history recently), but the above summarizes my thoughts on the matter.

Jargon:
Also, when does Alex break free? I remember him fantasizing about rape at the very end but he's still not able to commit action. That probably wasn't a great analogy either.

My understanding was that the stylistic rendering at the end of the film was to illustrate that he had broken free of his conditioning. Beforehand, even thinking about certain things made him feel ill.

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Bert replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 3:05 PM

This seems to go in hand with vive's post on leftists.  One must be able to point out and understand fallacies in the use of the language, just as someone may say "don't take away my freedom of speech" it implies it's a privilege granted by some authority, but that's not the case because it's simply a given.  Either speech exists or it does not. 

With words like capitalism, freedom, individualism, liberty, etc. it is a problem when debating leftists/whoever when the definitions change.  It's not an level field of debate when two ideologies cannot even agree on common usage/meaning of words, this causes friction in communication, and of course the leftist will manipulate it to their advantage.  People perceive and form their own definitions of these words on experience, they may acknowledge the existence of an assumed definition, but in their own thought and language it's how they see fit.

The reference of Alex the Droog is fitting, I have not watched A Clockwork Orange since high school, but I think now days I would have a more in depth grasp of what it was portraying on the idea of being indoctrinated and having varying concepts on language drilled into you, it'll affect your perception and beliefs of how things work and are.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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AJ replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 4:23 AM

Excellent insights, Jargon.

Jargon:

<<< A digression: An introvert voices his thoughts as words less than the extrovert. From this, he benefits. The extrovert converts abstractions he holds in his mind and converts them into words. Words are often defined more by connotations and impressions than by their precise meanings. Thus the extrovert will gradually lose the capability of thinking precisely. Always saying what he thinks, he will think in words and become unable to conjure pure abstractions without simultaneously conjuring the connotations and impressions associated with the word best fit for that abstraction. His mind becomes closed to the limit of his feelings. Mental doors are closed. His capacity to think precisely is impaired.

The introvert suffers this detriment less. He converts the precision of his abstractions into the imprecision of words less often. He is able to think more in abstractions and less in words. He is not chained to the mental shortcuts of connotation. He is able to walk along thin line without being pulled to the side by heavy magnetism of emotionalism and mental programming.>>>

Here your point about how "extroverts" (by which I think you practically mean people who convert their thoughts into words at each stage of the reasoning process) end up muddling up their beliefs was spot on and I think extremely important in every field. Language is a public, low-detail, one-dimensional, lowest-common-denominator format, whereas each thinker's own system of thought is a private, high-detail, multi-dimensional format that makes no compromises to accommodate those who understand less than the thinker. 

To constantly convert private thoughts into public language is like converting back and forth between 200k jpg files and 2k gif icons at every stage of your reasoning. Since words are easier to recall than thoughts, you get lossy word-thought overwriting happening at every point. In fact, in order to maintain a doublethink position in the face of someone trying to argue you out of it, you have to perform a fresh act of word-thought overwriting in each response. You have to continually dip back into word-based thinking to re-confuse yourself. 

I think the ultimate solution is to create a language - actually a whole new communication system - that is more like thought itself. My brainstorm to this end is being summarized here (no updates recently as I've been on intellectual break for a few months).

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Clayton replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 2:16 PM

@AJ: I think you're right that language and thought are partly separate. However, too much is made of the 'imprecision' of natural language. The so-called imprecision of natural language is the result of the fact that the rules of natural language are not completely fixed, as in the case of a computer language. But the fact that the rules of natural language are not completely fixed is the result of Godel's incompleteness theorems (the connection is somewhat indirect). It's really a distraction from deeper issues.

I'm working on a programming language called Babel. In the course of studying philosophy as a side-subject, I realized that the world does need a neutral, non-natural language to communicate in. The problem with the current system of many nationalistic languages competing for global status is that expanding the number of speakers of a natural language is an inherently imperialistic endeavor. The nation from which the dominant spoken language emanates enjoys many economic and other advantages as a result. In addition, we can see the benefits of language diversity since culture and language are inseparable yet natural-language imperialism is having a monolithic effect, rapidly reducing the number of living languages worldwide.

So, I have devised a framework for constructing a full-bodied artificial language - complete with syntax, grammar, word structure, and so on - but this framework is completely devoid of any semantic content whatsoever. I am currently exploring semantics and my current idea is to simply write a dissertation of my ideas and translate it into the artificial language, constructing the semantic content as I go. The only "rule" is that shorter words will be assigned to more common semantic relations, such as prepositions, tense, and so on.

If you're interested in the details, let me know. My syntactic/grammatical framework is highly reusable so you could use the empty structure to build your own language. Of course, I wouldn't mind someone collaborating with me on my project idea but I'm skeptical that it is possible to construct useful, a priori semantic content.

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Jargon replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 10:40 PM

Autolykos:

Magnets can quite often be pulled off of walls. :)

Depends if they have handholds... :P

Just because someone does not currently understand words, grammar, and logic better doesn't mean he'll never understand them better. I think it's a disservice to people to treat them like completely static beings. To me, that's the hallmark of elitism, and I personally try to avoid it. (Hopefully I'm successful at least most of the time.)

This is true. But it's rarely the goal to convince one person. More often it is to convince many. And it is nigh impossible to educate the many in the ways of logic and grammar before you can discuss things with them. In the time it takes to do that, your opponent has already framed you as a 'rich get richer, poor get poorer, bourgeois sycophant, pay no attention, etc." I don't mind, however, taking the individual time for individual people. But this has little effect on the real game: politics.

I'm not always good at this, but since I tend to be less emotionally attached to words than others who I'm debating, I will try to adopt their terminology. On other forums, I was accused of trying to win debates by pointing out differences in definitions. However, my point with that was never to win - it was simply to point out the differences in the definitions. While I still think that's definitely useful, what's even more useful is to show how one's opponent's argument is logically inconsistent regardless of the terminology used. Even then, however, I'm not trying to win the debate - in the sense of feeling "superior" or otherwise good/better about myself because I "showed him who's boss" etc. The point to me is further understanding of things. Unfortunately, most people who debate on the internet (if not also offline) care much more about winning.

спасибо товарищ

That's just the thing. Not everyone loved Stalin when he was in power. A lot of people didn't. But those who didn't love him were afraid of the consequences of expressing lack of support, for that could get them sent to the GULAG. On the other hand, a lot of Russians alive at the time were brought up under the Tsars, so they were used to an apparently strong leader ruling over everyone. There's more to it, and I could get into it more if you want (having read a lot of Soviet history recently), but the above summarizes my thoughts on the matter.

A lot of people didn't, but less people than those who did. The police state, trials, and camps could not have functioned without a broadbased citizen support. A lot of times, a lack of public support would result in the exportation to the camps.

Yes the Russians have an odd love of the 'strong leader'.

My understanding was that the stylistic rendering at the end of the film was to illustrate that he had broken free of his conditioning. Beforehand, even thinking about certain things made him feel ill.

It was always my understanding that Anthony Burgess wrote the book as a dystopian, about how much worse it is to have a human totally immoral and totally impotent rather than merely totally immoral.

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Jargon replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 10:42 PM

This doesn't warrant a new thread, but I wrote some FDR/Obama esque propaganda. Some of you might find it amusing.

 

 

 

My fellow Americans: I come before you today in the midst of an increasingly dire situation. More Americans are in need of work and money than ever in recent memory. Husbands and wives are sitting around the table late at night, trying to figure out what will work for them. Children are being sent to school with two pieces of bread with no ham in between. Dogs and cats are being abandoned. The elderly spend their days looking out the window, wondering if they'll be able to push through our economic downturn. People everywhere are tightening their belts, tucking in their shirts, and pulling their hats down low in this wintry recession. My fellow countrymen, this suffering must not be permitted. Times such as these call for decisive action to combat this uncertainty.

 

I propose that we, as a Nation, confront this challenge head on, displaying the courage, unity, and intelligence that have made America the greatest Democratic Nation on this earth. We mustn't indulge in the fruitless paranoia of hoarding while there are less fortunate Americans out there doing without. How can we allow the luckier among us to sort through their trinkets while there are those among us sitting hungry, behind on rent, getting increasingly desperate to find a job. I say that we DON'T permit such selfishness. Was it greed that got us through the Great Depression? Was it shallow self-interest that got us through World War II? Was it cowardice and stinginess that made us so great? I assert in response to these questions in total negative. Our sense of unity, cooperation, and uniquely American spirit gave us the strength to struggle through hard times. And now we must use those hallowed traits once again, as history calls upon the American People, to thrust ourselves through this wall of ice and into the prosperity of tomorrow.

 

To accomplish this 'ice-breaker', I am proposing a series of economic reforms. First of all, Americans demand clean energy, which is why I will be incentivizing the production of green energy products. This will create prosperity, national hygiene, and most importantly put people back to work. These energy reforms will go a long way to create independence from foreign encumbrance and modernize our outdated energy standards. Secondly, Americans demand more efficient transit to better facilitate trade between states and companies. After all, hard work and exchange is what made this Nation so prosperous in the first place, so it would be of utmost foolishness for anyone to object to that which expedites the process of wealth creation. These projects will also get Americans back to work, putting food on the table, and stimulating the economy. Thirdly, I will be instating a tax on savings and any investments which are not directly employing American workers. Americans cannot afford fancy countryclub portfolios right now. I understand that some might be upset at this measure, but this economic frivolity and idleness cannot be permitted while the chill of poverty creeps into the homes of our countrymen. Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, our American industries are strapped for cash. They're hesitant to do anything in a climate like the one we're experiencing. The risks are too great. This is why I will be extending United States Treasury loans to our valuable captains of industry, so that they can go out and start making and employing again.

 

In response to this address, there may be those among you, filled with fear, anger, and reluctance. I ask of you to suspend your own self-interst for the time being so that we, as a Nation, may prosper. Refrain from coldly withdrawing from society. Warmly extend yourself to your fellow brother and sister. I am confident that these bold economic reforms will restore to America the prosperity that our free markets could not. They were too hesitant, too stingy, too greedy. This plan is the bold and selfless voice of the people, the courageous and virtuous voice of American Democracy, the voice of a brighter future. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces after the thaw. Good night America, and good luck.

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I think you're right that language and thought are partly separate.

I think that assertion is highly suspect. How do you quantify what thought is prior to language?

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 1:27 AM

Well, when you close your eyes and visualize a geometric figure, are you thinking or not? If you are thinking, then how is it verbal? I can easily visualize a geometric figure without any verbal thoughts at all. And not only that, but I can visualize manipulations of the geometric figure which is a kind of reasoning, is it not? So, I don't think it's at all the case that I must have verbalized thoughts running through my head in order to think and even to reason. I'm not saying language plays no role at all - obviously it plays an important role. It's just that language is not constitutive of thought.

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AJ replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 3:13 AM

Clayton, I stand by the claim that natural language is extremely imprecise, but there are two main reasons for that, both of which your programming language could address.

One is that thinking (such as manipulating 3D images in your head) is two- or three-dimensional, whereas language is one-dimensional - being just a string of noises or symbols representing those noises. Even though code is also 1D, the problem of humans' limited memory or attention span is really what makes 1D language such a bottleneck, and that could be circumvented with a computer's help, thus potentially stopping the linearity from limiting its expressive power. It may take way more code than a person could ever read and hold in his mind at once to convey the same content as a relatively simple 2D diagram, but it's all the same to the computer.

The other source of imprecision of natural language is the lowest-common-denominator effect, where words are forced into all manner of similar yet different meanings for different purposes. Technical languages for specific fields get around this, and a computer could keep track of which field and context one is speaking in very well.

The big thing, though, is how to do the GUI. The interface would almost have to be diagrammatic and multi-dimensional: logical relations presented with Venn or Euler diagrams, for example. What I and my associate are working on now is a 2D grammar/syntax. I don't really adhere to any theoretical considerations at this point; I simply want to create method of communicating ideas that more closely resembles the original form those ideas took in the mind of the thinker. If I see a double helix in my mind I can draw it, but it used to be that if I saw a logical deduction in my mind I didn't know how to draw it - but now I can. I can put pages worth of logic statements and deductions into a simple diagram that captures them all in a way that a 4-year-old can grasp and use, and even take into his mind as a method of reasoning.

In the same manner, I want to collect the most effective ways people visually think about things and make a diagrammatic language out of them so that thought and communication become close to identical in whatever ways that is possible.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 10:40 AM

@AJ: The primary reason for my skepticism regarding a priori semantics is the sheer complexity of the real world. When I say "The horse leapt over the barnyard gate", I am actually communicating an immense amount of information if it were to be communicated in terms of a priori semantics. Natural language solves this problem by arbitrarily ignoring large swathes of such information as unimportant for communication. So, for any usable language, the problem is always going to be: what a priori semantic information does this language ignore and why?

I'm interested in any thoughts you have on how this problem can be solved. Really, what you're trying to construct sounds like a combination of early Wittgensteinian "visual logic" and Leibniz's Characteristica Universalis. My planned "method" for deriving semantic content is simply to translate semantic concepts - as unambiguously as possible - from English (the only language I know) to my constructed language on an "as-needed" basis. If you have a more systematic method for constructing semantics, I'm interested in hearing it.

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“The introvert suffers this detriment less. He converts the precision of his abstractions into the imprecision of words less often. He is able to think more in abstractions and less in words.”
 
I am not able to have an abstract thought without language. I have tried very hard and always fail. I can envision complex mechanisms or great scenes from nature, but never an abstract thought. Try the challenge. 
 
50,000 years ago archeologists find the first signs of abstract thinking in art and many suggest that it rose simultaneous with language or specifically language with syntax and not merely vocabulary (my dog has vocabulary).
 
Abstraction, literally “to pull away”  is a metaphor, literally “to carry away.”  It is a means of  taking thoughts away from our material world. Cat (which my dog knows) and  Bed (which my dog knows) are not abstract thoughts. But the cat is under the bed is a language construct the dog doesn‘t get. The abstract idea of under/over can be pulled away from the small reality of a bed to describe many things like a hierarchy, which the dog also gets but could never relate to being under a bed or the abstract thought of under-ness (sub/hypo). 
 
Of course words take on emotional connotations with use. The manipulation of euphemism/dysphemism is found on the Left and the Right, e.g. George Lakoff and Thomas Sowell both write about it. But if you want to get the true meaning of a word look at the etymon, literally the true meaning.  
 
Capital comes from the root caput,  head.  Capitalism is the system of headship, striving to get to the top. I would invest my time and money to damn a stream, build the water wheel and saw mill machinery. I would accept all these losses of capital investment to eventually achieve the mill which would put me on top of the local lumber market, well above all the others laboring in pit saws. That is capitalism. 
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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 3:01 PM

@Z: Naw, capital is a technical term within economics that specifically refers to the savings accumulated through deferred consumption. Capital (synonymous with "savings") is available for use in investments. So, capitalism makes investment possible. Successful investments lengthen the time-structure of production, increasing the division-of-labor (specialization) and simultaneously lowering the cost-of-living and (thereby) raising the standard-of-living. The central thesis of non-Marxian economic theory is that the capitalist (saver/investor) intends none of this (he does not invest to improve society) but, in the course of pursuing his own ends (improvement of his own material situation in life, that is, increasing his property), all these other positive benefits arise as unintended by-products.

Is the textile magnate necessarily concerned with squashing his competition and thereby reacing "the top of the pile"? Or is it possible that his primary concern to use whatever means are available to him to increase the profitability of his occupation, that is, of his investments? There is nothing inherently hierarchical about capitalism.

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Clayton,

Any thinker or school of thought can coopt a word by providing precise specific meaning to it. It's axiomatic that all capital originates from savings, i.e. that it exists only because it wasn't consumed, but I would think that savings (capital) that isn't invested doesn't exist in a purely capitalist sense but exists as capitalist potential. 

One would hope that the technical term wouldn't fall far from it's etymological abstraction/metaphor. You provide the examples that in this case it doesn't.

"improvement of his own material situation in life, that is, increasing his property"

 "to increase the profitability of his occupation" 

​Both examples indicate an upward movement, a movement towards the head. That is the essence of capitalism. No one would invest his savings to move downward or to stay the same. No connotations of moral judgment against hierarchy intended. 

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 3:55 PM

 

@Z: OK, I see your point now. That said, I am generally highly skeptical of etymological derivations - it's clear that capital is a reference to the head but how the term came to be associated with savings is unclear to me. It's like the term "equity" referring to that portion of your property which is not owed in debt to someone else, "We have $50,000 in equity in our house." Equity is clearly a reference to the essence of equality/fairness but why? A lot of the terms in finance seem to me to have been appropriated from the wider vernacular at random. Perhaps that's simply a function of my ignorance.

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Um...capital comes from caput in the sense of 'head of cattle'...

 

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Equity stems from a legal term for an alternative court system from the Common Law court. (See the Constitution Art 3 Sec 2 clause 1 "...all cases in Law and Equity...") Cases seeking monetary damages would be adjudicated by Equity Law, i.e. they would fix the fair and equitable value due - just like the fair and equitable value of the portion of the property owned.

Radical is good example of the connotation overtaking the etymon yet still not shaking itself free from its roots

 

radical 
late 14c. (adj.), in a medieval philosophical sense, from L.L. radicalis "of or having roots," from L. radix (gen. radicis) "root" (see radish). Meaning "going to the origin, essential" is from 1650s. Political sense of "reformist" (via notion of "change from the roots") is first recorded 1802 (n.), 1820 (adj.), of the extreme section of the British Liberal party (radical reform had been a current phrase since 1786); meaning "unconventional" is from 1921. 

 

capital (adj.) 
early 13c., from L. capitalis "of the head," hence "capital, chief, first," from caput (gen. capitis) "head" (see head). A capital crime (1520s) is one that affects the life or "head;"capital had a sense of "deadly, mortal" from late 14c. in English, a sense also found in Latin. The connection between "head" and "life, mortality" also existed in O.E.: e.g. heafodgilt"deadly sin, capital offense," heafdes þolian "to forfeit life." Capital punishment was in Blackstone (1765). Capital gain is recorded from 1921. Capital goods is recorded from 1899. Of ships, "first-rate, of the line," attested from 1650s. Related: Capitally.
capital (n.) 
early 15c., "a capital letter," from capital (adj.). The meaning "capital city" is first recorded 1660s (the O.E. word was heafodstol). The financial sense (1610s) is from L.L. capitale"stock, property," neut. of capitalis.
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Yeah, you still didn't give the proper etymology of capital in the context of 'capitalism'.  The very last one alludes to it - 'property', which as I said comes from the property of livestock - more specifically, the 'head' of cattle (as is also said in English).  Cf. English 'pecuniary', which comes from Latin 'pecunia' (property, money), which in turn is derived from Latin 'pecus' (herd of cattle).

EDIT: Also, I'm sure you've read the Iliad and can recall that wealth is denoted in oxen.  Like in Latin, the Greek word for capital comes from the word for head (of cattle) - kephale.

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My humble apologies and entire recantation of my proposed etymology. The etymological essence of capital is movable property.  Capitalism would be the movement of property and a capitalist the mover of property.
 
Time to rethink. In manufacturing capital has the specific meaning of non-recurring costs which leverage production. A non-recurring capital expense is very different from a recurring operating expense and that is not at all illuminated by the etymology. Thanks Aristippus.
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Anenome replied on Mon, Mar 26 2012 10:37 PM

I've been thinking about an issue along these lines. See if you follow me: 

We have the left's attempt to literally change thought and behavior by changing what words means, or by adding in new connotations. 

Beyond that, a lot of what is wrong with law and the legal system has at its heart the ambiguity of words, which you speak of here. Some even attack "right to bear arms" and the words "militia being necessary to the security of a free state" to pervert the intent of founding law.

So, I seek a way to make such an attack impossible.

Now, I haven't done a lot of work on this yet, but the concept I'm working on I call 'algorithmic law', in which law would be more akin to computer programming than to writing in lawyerese as is currently done. 

A law would come built in with a series of concrete tests, and definitions would be hyperlinked--containe within the words automatically. 

Dunno if it's a viable concept at this point, but moving to a system of formal language with rigid definitions, more akin to formal logic, would likely have benefits towards making law less obtuse and opaque and less easy to pervert by human hands. Could open the way to absolutely objective judgment, such as a computer program being able to judge whether you'd broken the law or not, simply by applying the concrete tests.

That's the crux, more objectivity, less ambiguity. 

A lot of law is written close to this already, with tests and the like, but the tests are not really concrete. 

Listening to the supreme court arguments today on health care only made this even more obvious, where the question of whether the law imposes a fee or a tax, and whether one law applied to another law was the crux of the first day's arguments. But where ambiguity creates cracks in the meaning of a structure, the justices legislate their own un-voted-upon decisions.

 

 

 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Mar 27 2012 12:45 AM

The Confucians were right - law ought not to be written down.

The problem with law has nothing to do with a lack of formalism. It has everything to do with the monopolization of law and the absence of competition, variation, experimentation and testing of different alternatives in law.

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Mar 27 2012 1:25 AM

"Thoughts?"

Language, Logic, Knowledge and Action

In explicitly understanding knowledge as displayed in argumentation as a peculiar category of action, it becomes clear immediately why the perennial rationalist claim that the laws of logicbeginning here with the most fundamental ones, i.e., of propositional logic and of Junctors (“and,” “or,” “if-then,” “not”) and Quantors (“there is,” “all,” “some”)are a priori true propositions about reality and not mere verbal stipulations regarding the transformation rules of arbitrarily chosen signs, as empiricist-formalists would have it, is indeed correct. They are as much laws of thinking as of reality; because they are laws that have their ultimate foundation in action and could not be undone by any actor. In each and every action, an actor identifies some specific situation and categorizes it one way rather than another in order to be able to make a choice. It is this which ultimately explains the structure of even the most elementary propositions (like “Socrates is a man”) consisting of a proper name or some identifying expression for the naming or identifying  of something, and a predicate to assert or deny some specific property of the named or identified object; and which explains the cornerstones of logic: the laws of identity and contradiction. And it is this universal feature of action and choosing which also explains our understanding of the categories “there is,” “all” and, by implication, “some,” as well as “and,” “or,” “if-then” and “not.”[58]

One can say, of course, that something can be “a” and “non-a” at the same time, or that “and” means this rather than something else. But one cannot undo the law of contradiction; and one cannot undo the real definition of “and.” For simply by virtue of acting with a physical body in physical space we invariably affirm the law of contradiction and invariably display our true constructive knowledge of the meaning of “and” and “or.”

~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method, On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology, III, pg 71.

  • [58] On rationalist interpretations of logic see Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, chapters 6, 10; P. Lorenzen, Einfuhrung in die operative Logik und Mathematik (Frankfun/M.: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1970); K. Lorenz, Elemente der Sprachkritik (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1970); idem, “Diedialogische Rechtfertigung der effektiven Logik,” in: E Kambartel and J. Mittelstrass, eds., Zum normativen Fundament der Wissenschaft (Frankfurt/M.: Athenaum, 1973).
  • On the propositional character of language and experience, in particular, see W. Kamlah and P. Lorenzen, Logische Propiideutik, chapter 1; P. Lorenzen, Normative Logic and Ethics, chapter 1. Lorenzen writes:
“I call a usage a convention if I know of another usage which I could accept instead.·… However, I do not know of another behavior which could replace the use of elementary sentences. If I did not accept proper names and predicators, I would not know how to speak at all… . Each proper name is a convention … but to use proper names at all is not a convention: it is a unique pattern of linguistic behavior. Therefore, I am going to call it ‘logical’. The same is true with predicators. Each predicator is a convention. This is shown by the existence of more than one natural language. But all languages use predicators” (ibid., p. 16). See also J. Mittelstrass, “Die Wiederkehr des Gleichen,” Ratio (1966).
  • On the law of identity and contradiction, in particular, see B. Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, pp. 276ff, 423ff. On a critical evaluation of 3- or more-valued logics as either meaningless symbolic formalisms or as logically presupposing an understanding of the traditional two-valued logic see W Stegmiiller,  HauptstrOmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie vol. 2 (Stuttgart: Kroner, 1975), pp. 182-91; B. Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, pp. 269-75. Regarding, for instance, the many-valued or open-textured logic, proposed by E Waismann, Blanshard notes: 

“We can only agree with Dr. Waismann-and with Hegel-that the black-and-white distinctions of formal logic are quite inadequate to living thought. But why should one say, as Dr. Waismann does, that in adopting a more differentiated logic one is adopting an alternative system which is incompatible with black-and-white logic? What he has actually done is to recognize a number of gradations within the older meaning of the word ‘not’. We do not doubt that such gradations are there, and indeed as many more as he cares to distinguish. But a refinement of the older logic is not an abandonment of it. It is still true that the colour I saw yesterday was either a determinate shade of yellow or not, even though the ‘not’ may cover a multitude of approximations, and even though I shall never know which was the shade I saw” (ibid., pp. 273-74).

 

 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Mar 27 2012 1:53 AM

the laws of logic... are a priori true propositions about reality and not mere verbal stipulations regarding the transformation rules of arbitrarily chosen signs, as empiricist-formalists would have it

This is a false dichotomy. Without a doubt, we have no choice but to act as if the laws of logic are absolute descriptions of huamn action and - more inclusively - all thought and physical reality. And the empiricist (I object to the hyphenation of empiricism with formalism since this is a formal argument) is trapped in the inherent contradiction of his assertion that all truth must be provable (from logic) or measurable.

But there is a serious conceptual problem with exalting the laws of logic to the place of accounting for language, which you are here implying they do. The laws of logic are provably incomplete, that is, not all true facts can be derived from the laws of logic. And once we expand the rules of language to a sufficient degree to permit proof of true facts which escape the descriptive power of the laws of logic, we must admit the possibility that we have chosen contradictory axioms. This is the meaning of Godel's famous incompleteness theorems. And you can't wiggle out by saying "oh but that's only for formal logic, such as mathematics" since mathematics is a subset of natural language, that is, if this is true of mathematics, it is true of its parent, natural language.

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Mar 27 2012 5:21 AM

"This is a false dichotomy."

It's not. Nor have you shown it to be.

"Without a doubt, we have no choice but to act as if the laws of logic are absolute descriptions of huamn action and - more inclusively - all thought and physical reality. And the empiricist (I object to the hyphenation of empiricism with formalism since this is a formal argument) is trapped in the inherent contradiction of his assertion that all truth must be provable (from logic) or measurable."

"Recognizing knowledge as praxeologically constrained explains why the empiricist-formalist view is incorrect and why the empirical success of Euclidean geometry is no mere accident. Spatial knowledge is also included in the meaning of action. Action is the employment of a physical body in space. Without acting there could be no knowledge of spatial relations, and no measurement. Measuring is relating something to a standard. Without standards, there is no measurement; and there is no measurement, then, which could ever falsify the standard. Evidently, the ultimate standard must be provided by the norms underlying the construction of bodily movements in space and the construction of measurement instruments by means of one’s body and in accordance with the principles of spatial constructions embodied in it."
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method
 
"But there is a serious conceptual problem with exalting the laws of logic to the place of accounting for language, which you are here implying they do. The laws of logic are provably incomplete, that is, not all true facts can be derived from the laws of logic."
 
How quaint. 
 
[T]he claim of having produced an a priori true proposition does not imply a claim of being infallible. No one is, and rationalism has never said anything to the contrary. Rationalism merely argues that the process of validating or falsifying a statement claiming to be true a priori is categorically different from that of validating or falsifying what is commonly referred to as an empirical proposition. … Revisions of mathematical arguments are themselves a priori. They only show that an argument thought to be a priori true is not.
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, In Defense of Extreme Rationalism, p.208.
 
"And once we expand the rules of language to a sufficient degree to permit proof of true facts which escape the descriptive power of the laws of logic, we must admit the possibility that we have chosen contradictory axioms. This is the meaning of Godel's famous incompleteness theorems. And you can't wiggle out by saying "oh but that's only for formal logic, such as mathematics" since mathematics is a subset of natural language, that is, if this is true of mathematics, it is true of its parent, natural language."
 
K. Godel’s proof-which, as a proof, incidentally supports rather than undermines the rationalist claim of the possibility of a priori knowledge-only demonstrates that the early formalist Hilbert program cannot be successfully carried through, because in order to demonstrate the consistency of certain axiomatic theories one must have a metatheory with even stronger means than those formalized in the object-theory itself. Interestingly enough, the difficulties of the formalist program had led the old Hilbert already several years before Godel’s proof of 1931 to recognize the necessity of reintroducing a substantive interpretation of mathematics ala Kant, which would give its axioms a foundation and justification that was entirely independent of any formal consistency proofs.
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method 

 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Mar 27 2012 12:38 PM

@Conza: I'm not sure what to respond to in your last post because - besides asserting that I haven't "proven" my note regarding a false-dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism (a point on which books have been written and which, therefore, I will not delve into further) - you haven't disagreed with anything I've said.

K. Godel’s proof-which, as a proof, incidentally supports rather than undermines the rationalist claim of the possibility of a priori knowledge-only demonstrates that the early formalist Hilbert program cannot be successfully carried through, because in order to demonstrate the consistency of certain axiomatic theories one must have a metatheory with even stronger means than those formalized in the object-theory itself. Interestingly enough, the difficulties of the formalist program had led the old Hilbert already several years before Godel’s proof of 1931 to recognize the necessity of reintroducing a substantive interpretation of mathematics ala Kant, which would give its axioms a foundation and justification that was entirely independent of any formal consistency proofs.

— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method

I'm in absolute agreement with Hoppe, here, and I will note that the modernists have spent nearly a century in a state of disbelief, confusion, despair and apathy regarding Godel's proofs that show a Hilbertian formalization of truth is impossible. I will go further and note that their utter disconsolation regarding this point is caused by what motivated their original interest in formalization in the first place: central-planning. Godel's proof shows that you could not calculate the long-run consequences of any action even if all the parameters were completely axiomatic and formalized. How much more is this the case for the real world where we can hardly hope to formalize even a tiny fraction of the information relevant for action, even on the most optimistic view of the amenability of subjective experience to quantization and formalization.

I don't see how this quote is a rebuttal of my point. The deep lesson of the incompleteness theorems that few people are comfortable with confronting is that it is always possible that we have (mistakenly) chosen contradictory axioms, a mistake which may only be revealed much later or even never at all. You cannot prove a consistent set of axioms* is consistent! *(That is, for any set of axioms that can be used to express ordinary arithmetic which, by the way, the axioms of logic cannot, at least not without the introduction of other axioms.) The laws of logic simply do not contain enough "complexity" to account for language, much less describe the real world. Much more must be assumed - at least enough to do basic arithmetic, at which point we fall into the abyss of incompleteness and we are ever faced with the possibility that we have unwittingly chosen contradictory axioms.

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Jargon:
incoherent with frustration

That's the title of my autobiography!

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Anenome replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 3:01 AM

Clayton:

The Confucians were right - law ought not to be written down.

The problem with law has nothing to do with a lack of formalism. It has everything to do with the monopolization of law and the absence of competition, variation, experimentation and testing of different alternatives in law.

We're never going to agree, obviously. I'd say the problem with law is that law is allowed to capture citizens, citizens thereby being unable to easily escape one body of law's jurisdiction and then join another jurisdiction--which if instituted would have the effect of eliminating all bad effects of law, for law would no longer have a monopoly on citizens, and if all citizens leave a jurisdiction that body of law dies a natural death.

The corollary of this approach is that jurisdictions compete for citizens, making law both responsive to the actual demands of its citizen participants and eliminating all negatively coercive effects of law. You would never again have any need to live under a law you felt was being forced upon you.

What's needed to bring about this state of affairs is a recognition of an individual right to secede from any jurisdiction at will, and the ability to easily form a new jurisdiction or join an existing one at will.

Not writing down law has the effect only of instituting pure whim, and whim-based rule is much worse than law-based rule where decisions can't be made arbitrarily nor in the moment.

Some here continue to maintain that at least some kind of society is possible absent actual legal institutions designed to uphold individual rights and settle disputes, however even these people don't put up a defense that such could be maintained in a large scale society.

And what history we do have on periods of actual anarchy are not encouraging. Such periods did not evolve into mutually respectful situations because not everyone has a commitment to the NAP, and such a society has few means of recourse against those who don't (boycott? give me a break).

I'll just leave this here and just one, of many, examples of actual anarchy, and among purported libertarian-types no less:

In the summer of 1967, the pirate radio ship Laissez Faire [in international waters] radioed a distress call. Two factions on board were fighting. There were threats of murder. The authorities did nothing, explaining that the pirates "had deliberately placed themselves outside the reach of the law." Touché.

 

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Zerubbabel replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 12:32 PM

"not everyone has a commitment to the NAP"

When everyone does make the commitment to non-aggression then that becomes the principle or first law of the land. The mutually agreed deferral of violence is the originary scene of humanity. See generative anthropology for that imagined origin. 

 

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AJ replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 2:32 PM

Clayton:
So, for any usable language, the problem is always going to be: what a priori semantic information does this language ignore and why?

This is a separate question from the matter of what form a language will take (visual, linear, etc.), and I think it handles itself unless you mean to build a language totally from scratch, alone. What information is ignored by the language is always going to be a function of the communicators' shared context. If one of us does not know the relative size of horses and barnyard gates, it is perhaps unlikely that we will make a picture of "The horse lept over the barnyard gate" and see essentially the same thing in our minds. To me, this question is one that will be answered by the practical considerations that arise as a language is cultivated, among individual people attempting to express and understand. 

We have been building the language by simply using diagrams to communicate some of the things we would have said anyway, and seeing what sticks. There is a sort of constructed logical basis that is already basically finished, but everything on top of that is just through trial, error, and small insights that may come up each time we go to send a message that requires something new. We're using English words for the nouns, verbs, adjective, and adverbs, because we're first trying to build a visual "grammar" of conventions that involve orientation, enclosure, contact, and other easily apprehendable quasi-physical characteristics.

The only thing I'm aware of trying to do at this point is to communicate using 2D grammar as efficiently as possible. Basically just, "What would happen if humans had started out using nonlinear diagrams instead of strings of sounds?"

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AJ replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 2:54 PM

Zerubbabel:
I am not able to have an abstract thought without language. I have tried very hard and always fail. I can envision complex mechanisms or great scenes from nature, but never an abstract thought. Try the challenge. 

In some ways people just define "abstract thought" as every piece of language out there that doesn't call up any definite picture. You can certainly notice or probably imagine a cat under a bed without words, and notice what that means for your situation without words. What is often called "abstract" is the generalization of the idea of "cats under beds," or "things that are under other things." But that is merely a larger set of pictures. Humans don't really generalize, but rather think of a blur of perhaps two or three examples. The words only give the illusion that we are generalizing. In every case, to actually use the words "things that are under other things," we have to imagine something.

Likewise, to actually understand something abstract like, "The state is responsible," we have to imagine something, visually or otherwise. Insofar as we do not experience any sensations (other than the sound of the words or the appearance of the text), can we really say we understood the sentence? Or that we have thought that thought?

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Clayton replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 3:38 PM

@AJ: That's definitely interesting - I am a computer engineer so the first thing that comes to my mind is logic diagrams like this:

Might this sort of "circuit layout" be of use to you?

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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AJ,

Generalities are not necessarily abstractions but could merely be categories of observable (non-verbal) reality such as your things that are under things

Abstractions are ideas pulled away from the observable reality and this requires language. I observe the reality of the cat under the bed but need words to think about subjectivism or about objectivism (in which case I would have to put the cat on top of the bed.) 

"In every case, to actually use the words "things that are under other things," we have to imagine something." 

Absolutely! That was my point. We understand all abstract ideas by analogy to observable reality. And at the same time we understand the meaning of all words by analogy to observable reality ... which one can find in the etymon. For instance, to understand Subject the etymon is to throw under, like the observable reality of the cat under the bed. But we need words to relate the abstraction embodied in the word Subjectivism, to the observable reality. We need words to describe the abstract idea of subjectivism; that we can not clearly see something because it is obscured by the thing it is under ... and the thing we may not see could be an unobservable ethic and the thing it might be under is an unobservable cultural conditioning. We understand that abstract though of subjectivism by analogy to a cat under the bed. 

My point is that language is best understood by the analogies found in the etymon.  

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AJ replied on Mon, Apr 2 2012 12:46 PM

Clayton:

Might this sort of "circuit layout" be of use to you?

It might be. I've always been curious what connection circuit logic has to propositional logic, if any. Are those triangles and arrowheads in some way akin to grammatical function words?

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AJ replied on Mon, Apr 2 2012 1:03 PM

Zerubbabel, 

I'm not sure if you are agreeing or not. I agree we need words to describe "subjectivism" to another person, but not to understand it ourselves. Words like "justice" are further removed from direct sensory experience, but in every instance where we actually understand the word, we experience definite sensations, visual or otherwise. Insofar as it remains "abstract," it remains meaningless to us.

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AJ,

"we need words to describe "subjectivism" to another person, but not to understand it ourselves."

 
The thinking process has been described by some as an "inner dialog."  I can't speak for all humanity, but for me that is the form that my thinking takes when I think about an abstract idea. When I think about a material thing the form it takes is images, a sort of virtual reality. I can tacitly think about the virtual reality image of a cat under the bed, but to make the analogous connection between the image of a cat under the bed and the abstract idea of subjectivism I inevitably fall back upon words.
 
Can you think about subjectivism without the "inner dialog"?
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Why not just go by this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjective_theory_of_value

or a more specified Misean definition.

 

I think when one comes to Mises.org they ought assume subjective means whatever Mises says unless specified otherwise, as it is a critical point.  No reason to deconstruct or ponder of a meaning like that on this site.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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